Facebook India’s Public Policy Director Ankhi Das stepped down from her post on Tuesday, weeks after she was accused of circumventing the company’s hate speech policies in favour of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, PTI reported.
Das, who served as the public policy head of Facebook India, South and Central Asia, was resigning to pursue her interest in public service, Facebook India head Ajit Mohan said in a statement. “Ankhi was one of our earliest employees in India and played an instrumental role in the growth of the company and its services over the last 9 years,” Mohan wrote.
A controversy erupted after an article published by The Wall Street Journal on August 14 reported that Das opposed the idea of removing incendiary posts by Bharatiya Janata Party leaders, warning that this could hurt the company’s “commercial interests” in its biggest market, India. Das had also not revealed that Facebook had deleted fake news pages connected to the saffron party, according to the report.
Both Das and Mohan have denied allegations of bias over how Facebook regulates its political content in India. Facebook has said it prohibits hate speech that incites violence and enforces policies without regard to political position or party affiliation.
A parliamentary IT panel led by Shashi Tharoor had summoned Das for questioning last week. She was questioned for two hours by the members, who reportedly asked her some “tough and searching questions”. In September, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology had also questioned Mohan.
A panel of the Delhi Assembly , constituted on August 18, had also summoned Das and Mohan after Facebook’s alleged inaction on hate speech was exposed. On September 15, the panel had warned the social media platform that not appearing before it was not only in “contempt” of the Assembly but also an “insult” to the two crore people of Delhi. The Delhi panel had resumed hearing the matter again on October 12.
Several reports have also emerged of Facebook favouring the BJP. According to one such report, Facebook removed 14 of the 44 pages flagged by the BJP for being opposed to it in January 2019. Currently, 14 of these pages are no longer on the social media platform. It has also emerged that the BJP was the top advertiser on Facebook on “social issues, elections and politics” over the last 18 months, according to the social media platform’s advertising spending tracker information in August.
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